TT-784 (Tourism Edition) -- Cash and Regional Tourism

Japan Travel
* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S (TOURISM) TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A bi-weekly focused look at the tourism sector in Japan, by Terrie
Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

Tourism Sector Edition Sunday, December 07, 2014, Issue No. 784

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In April this year, the Nikkei came out with an article about a new
term (for us at least) "Travel Balance", which refers to the total
spending by Japanese tourists overseas versus the spending by foreign
tourists in Japan. In April, for the first time since records were
kept in 1996, inbound tourists outspent Japanese ones. That's no small
feat, given that there are about 25% more Japanese going abroad versus
foreigners coming in.

Since April the travel balance fell back to a more normal state, but
in July it surged once more into the black, with JPY3.4bn more being
spent here than abroad. This was not only due to a record 1.26m
foreigners coming to Japan that month (annualized, 15.12m visitors),
but also because the Chinese are coming back in force and they are
particularly prolific spenders. On average Chinese visitors spend
about JPY120,000 per person on shopping in Japan, versus Americans who
spend around JPY24,000. Either way, foreign travelers overall spend
about 30% of their trip budget on shopping, and spent JPY460bn in
2013. That number is likely to rise above JPY500bn in FY2014, thanks
to the increasing number of foreign visitors and the falling yen.

As we've commented before, tourism is likely to be one of the few
sectors that will grow substantially and is likely to make a huge
contribution to the country's financial situation. Although tourists
are mostly paying the same taxes for services (and some goods) that
Japanese are, they are seldom tapping the public services that are
available as a result of paying such taxes. So basically they are a
windfall to government.

The total contribution of travel and tourism (domestic and inbound) to
the Japanese economy is 6.9% of GDP. Coincidentally, foreign visitor
spending last year was also 6.9% of the total travel/tourism spend,
which means that foreign tourists account for about 0.47% of GDP. If
you presume, as we do, that with visa relaxations and the coming Rugby
World Cup and Olympics that the Japanese government probably will hit
its 20m visitor goal by 2020, then the economic contribution by
foreign tourists will probably be around 1% of GDP -- not too shabby.

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Having established that tourists are financially beneficial, it's of
course no surprise that regional governments all over Japan are waking
up to the fact that they need some of the travelers to come their way.
Right now most people visiting Japan are first-timers who are here for
4 to 10 days, and who really just want to experience the delights of
the "Golden Triangle", being Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. They typically
take a tour because finding your own way around for the first time is
just a hassle.

Once they have discovered Japan, a growing number of travellers become
so-called repeaters. They travel independently and are more likely to
be wanting new and authentic experiences. They are the ones who are
brave enough to buy rail passes or rent cars, and who want to explore
the countryside. They may not spend as much on shopping as the tour
participants do, but they stay longer and they still have to eat out
three times a day and buy momentos of their travels.

The question that a lot of regional destinations face, then, is how to
attract such customers to their areas? The first and most obvious
answer is to simply make the area more accessible to travelers. Not
only in terms of foreign language websites, but also in terms of
online booking capabilities (still not available with many onsen,
ryokan, public museums, events, etc.) and public transport. One
tourist facility we visited out near Chiba airport recently, called
Boso no Mura, only had 1-2 buses an hour during weekdays and just 2
buses a day on weekends...! Not much chance of getting foreign
tourists out there if they have to walk.

After getting all the "hygiene" items out of the way, the next thing
these regional travel destinations need to do is to focus on the core
value of the area. For example, at present we are discussing a
consulting opportunity with an onsen town in Hyogo-ken -- an
interesting project. They have almost 100 hotels and other forms of
accommodation, but unfortunately they are not near a major city nor
are they served by an airport. Furthermore, there are no major
shrines, temples, cultural attractions, or spectacular scenery.

So if they want foreign tourists to go there, they need to provide a
reason. Basically they need to turn themselves into a tourist
destination, rather than just being a place to stay. Problem is that
that because they are not on the way to anywhere and because they have
plenty of competition nationally from other onsen areas, they have
their work cut out for them.

Probably we will wind up suggesting that either they spend some money
(god forbid) on beautifying the area and making it a special
destination, or opening up the area to local and foreign artists to
make the town stand out, or to start staging events of some kind that
are unique to the area.

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One competing onsen town which is also lacking built-in attractions
but which is nonetheless pulling in tourists through its own efforts,
is Yufuin in Oita-ken, Kyushu. This town is also somewhat out of the
way, being about an hour from Oita airport (north of Beppu) and 2-3
hours by car or bus from Fukuoka. Even so, Yufuin draws in large
numbers of tourists because some years ago the town's leaders decided
that they would make it one of the most beautiful and well-preserved
parts of Japan.

And they have done that admirably. Wherever you go in Yufuin, the care
taken over building codes, beautification of the streets and streams,
the planting of trees, the landscaping, and the exclusion of cars from
the main shopping streets makes it a desirable place to visit and
stay. It is particularly popular with Koreans and Chinese, and we
heard that a number of people from those countries have been buying
property in the area. These are the ultimate "repeaters", and are one
of the side benefits of having such a beautiful and authentic

...The information janitors/


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